Purpose: To perform a midterm assessment of the integrity and reproducibility of cultivated autologous oral mucosal epithelial sheets, and to evaluate the clinical efficacy of their transplantation in ocular surface.
Design: Observational case series.
Methods: Cultivated autologous oral mucosal epithelial sheets were created using amniotic membrane and buccal mucosal epithelium from 12 patients with Stevens-Johnson syndrome, chemical and thermal injury, pseudo-ocular cicatricial pemphigoid, and idiopathic ocular surface disorder. They were transplanted onto 15 eyes from these patients who were then followed up for a mean of 20 months; with the longest follow-up being 34 months. We assessed their clinical outcomes with special reference to neovascularization.
Results: Cultivated autologous oral mucosal epithelial sheets could be generated from all patients. On the second postoperative day, 14 of 15 sheets transplanted demonstrated total re-epithelialization on the cornea. During the follow-up, the ocular surface was stable and transparent without any major complications in 10 of 15 eyes (67%), and the transplanted epithelium survived for at least 34 months. There were five eyes (33%) with small but long-standing epithelial defects, three of these healed spontaneously, and two (13%) required reoperation. In 10 eyes, postoperative visual acuity was improved by more than 2 lines. All eyes manifested some peripheral corneal vascularization.
Conclusions: We established a successful tissue-engineering technique to generate cultivated autologous oral mucosal epithelial sheets and succeeded in reconstructing the ocular surface. We suggest that this surgical modality may be both safe and useful, especially in younger patients with the most severe ocular surface disorders.